There is no subject that gets the British tabloid press going more than crime and punishment. Day after day, readers are battered with stories illustrating how official Britain is “soft” on crime – despite the fact that imprisonment is at record levels, and that the levels of many categories of crime are actually falling (although that may well change as recession bites).
The argument that more criminals should be locked up for longer is trotted out more often than the claim that Britain’s prisons are no more than closed holiday camps. So it was good to see a powerful rebuttal by Johann Hari in the Independent earlier this week.
And, as a counter to the increasing tabloid and political hysteria about knife crime, here and here are two powerful articles from Socialist Worker by Jackie Ranger, whose son Leon was stabbed to death (I am grateful to this post from The Enemies of Reason for the links). These pieces tell a story that you won’t hear in the mainstream media, but seems to me to be vital to understand what is happening on the streets. But it’s not the sort of story that sells newspapers to the comfortable middle classes.
Hari’s and Rainger’s pieces speak for themselves, but the question I want to ask is this. Who is really soft on crime – the red-faced tabloid editor ranting for revenge, based on a set of simplistic moral prejudices, or the rational person coolly asking pertinent questions about cause and effect, and about what can be done?